Three out of four car seats are not installed properly
Safe Kids Northeast Florida offers free child passenger seat inspections at THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health.
Johnny Woodhouse Published: 3/29/2018
Three out of four car seats are not installed properly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, and even that may be a conservative estimate.
A correctly used child safety seat can reduce the risk of death by more than 70 percent, but it has to be the right seat and it has to be installed the right way.
Safe Kids Northeast Florida, led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, takes car seat safety very seriously. It provides free car seat inspections by appointment Tuesday mornings at THE PLAYERS Center in Metro Square, along with monthly car seat inspections at Subaru of Jacksonville and periodic Booster Seat Saturdays. At every inspection site and at no cost to the family, a certified child passenger safety technician with Safe Kids Northeast Florida will check that child restraints are properly installed and that children are buckled in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. Then the technician will make sure the parent knows how to install the seat correctly.
“Car seats can be complicated and the manuals that come with them can be hard to understand,” said Danielle Kessenger of Safe Kids Northeast Florida, a local coalition led by THE PLAYERS Center. “Nine out of 10 parents don’t realize they are driving around with improperly installed car seats. It’s important to learn how a properly installed car seat can prevent serious injuries in the event of a vehicle crash.”
Kessenger, a certified child passenger safety tech since 2003 and a certified instructor with the National Child Passenger Safety Board since 2013, helped install a pair of brand-new car seats for Tabrielle Lee, a Jacksonville mother of three who was involved in a two-car crash 12 days before Christmas.
Lee, 25, was driving her 21-month-old twins to daycare when another motorist struck her vehicle on the driver’s side. The force of the impact caused Lee’s children to come out of their forward-facing car seats. Daughter Vanya landed on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Son Kenton landed in his mother’s lap.
After her vehicle stopped spinning, Lee pried herself out from under the front airbag and waited for help to arrive.
“There was glass everywhere. Kenton’s head was bleeding and his face was scratched up. Vanya was screaming, but I wasn’t sure if she was injured or not. Everything happened so fast,” Lee said.
An ambulance arrived at the scene soon after the accident and whisked Lee and her twins to the emergency room at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where it was determined that Vanya had a broken femur and a skull fracture, and Kenton had an orbital fracture along with glass particles in one eye.
“It was really scary,” said Lee, adding that her son underwent CT scans to rule out any head trauma. Once her kids were admitted to a medical/surgical unit at Wolfson Children’s, Lee checked herself into the adult ER at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. “My right ankle and heel were swollen, but my injuries were minor compared to theirs,” she said.
Vanya had emergency surgery at Wolfson Children’s to repair her thighbone and was placed in a body cast for six weeks. After Vanya’s cast was removed, Lee and her husband were invited to THE PLAYERS Center’s headquarters at Metro Square to receive two brand-new car seats, courtesy of a grant from Graco and Safe Kids Worldwide, a global nonprofit working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries. The couple also received a number of basic car seat safety tips, including when to switch from rear-facing seats to forward-facing ones.
According to Kessenger, toddlers are more than five times safer riding in rear-facing car seats than forward-facing ones, and should remain in a rear-facing seat until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the seat manufacturer.
Rear-facing seats better support a child’s head, neck and spine and will keep them 75 percent safer in a crash, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Lee said she and her husband learned a lot of valuable information during their in-depth car seat inspection at THE PLAYERS Center, which was founded in 2011 with a naming gift from THE PLAYERS Championship to improve the health, wellness and quality of life of area families.
“THE PLAYERS Center was very helpful,” said Lee, who also has a six-month-old daughter named Kenley. “Basically, you want to make sure your children are safe and secure in their seats because an accident can happen at any given moment.”
To make an appointment at the Safe Kids Buckle Up® Inspection Station, call 904.202.4302, or visit Wolfsonchildrens.org/safekids for more information.